We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a recurring skin condition that causes painful, pus-filled bumps, abscesses, and scarring. While there are many effective medical treatments, a person with a mild case might also try home remedies to ease the symptoms.
In this article, we describe a few natural treatment options that may help relieve HS symptoms.
HS occurs when a hair follicle becomes blocked, leading to a secondary infection of a sweat gland.
HS does not result from poor personal hygiene. Possible factors that may contribute to it include:
- a family history
- having overweight or obesity
- hormonal changes during menstruation
Digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease may coexist in people with HS.
HS lesions usually develop in areas where the skin rubs together, such as in or around the armpits, groin, vulva, or anus. These lesions can also appear on the breasts or scalp.
HS lesions can be swollen, red, and incredibly painful. Some lesions tunnel through soft tissue, forming wounds that doctors call sinus tracts.
The infection responsible for the HS lesion may spread to a sinus tract. When this happens, painful, pus-filled pockets of tissue, called abscesses, can form within the tract.
There are three stages of HS, according to the Hurley staging system:
- Hurley stage 1: Single, isolated boils form under the skin. The person may experience itching or discomfort.
- Hurley stage 2: The boils rupture and produce pus. Mild to moderate abscess and sinus tract formation may occur.
- Hurley stage 3: This involves painful, widespread abscesses interconnected by sinus tracts.
Many medical treatments can ease symptoms and prevent the issue from advancing. For anyone with a mild case who wants to try natural approaches to treatment, we list the options below.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the following strategies can help reduce HS symptoms and prevent flare-ups:
- reaching and maintaining a moderate weight
- quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
- wearing loose-fitting clothing
- keeping the skin cool to avoid sweating
Antibacterial washes with the following contents can also help:
- zinc pyrithione
- benzoyl peroxide 10%
Wound care is another essential part of HS treatment. Clean any wounds frequently with an antiseptic or non-soap cleanser and regularly change the dressings — a person may need to do this several times a day.
If an odor comes from the wound, soak a clean washcloth in diluted white vinegar and apply it to the area before dressing the wound.
A dermatologist can provide tailored instructions and guidance.
Applying heat may help ease any pain and swelling and promote drainage of mild HS lesions.
It is important to keep the skin near an active HS lesion dry, so a dry heat source, such as an electric heating pad, may be a good option.
A person can also make a warm compress by dampening a washcloth in warm water and applying it to the area. However, be sure to dry the affected skin immediately after removing the compress.
Although research suggests that essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these. A person should talk with their healthcare provider before using essential oils, and they should be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. A person should always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia shrub.
Research from 2013 reports that physicians can recommend tea tree oil as a temporary way to help keep the affected area clean.
Tea tree oil is known for its antimicrobial properties. In one 2015 study, researchers found that the oil enhanced the effects of a conventional antifungal drug called fluconazole.
The researchers tested a combination of fluconazole and tea tree oil against 32 fluconazole-resistant strains of Candida albicans. Of these strains, 87.5% were susceptible to the combination treatment.
However, as the authors of one 2018 study observe, not all commercially available tea tree oils are equally effective.
They tested batches of 10 tea tree oils against several microbes, including Candida glabrata, herpes simplex virus type 1, and Staphylococcus aureus. Only five tea tree oils showed significant antimicrobial activity.
Dilute tea tree oil in a carrier oil before applying it to the skin. A person might apply the mixture with a cotton ball.
Research indicates that honey has antimicrobial and wound-healing properties.
A 2019 review, for example, found that undiluted honey inhibits the growth of bacteria — the high sugar content causes the bacteria’s cells to become dehydrated, which prevents them from growing and multiplying.
People can apply honey directly to their skin.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that contains a gel-like substance.
Aloe vera gel contains several beneficial vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. A 2019 systematic review, for example, concludes that it has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and wound-healing properties.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), aloe vera gel may:
- improve acne
- relieve pain from burns
- promote wound healing
- help treat the skin conditions herpes, lichen planus, and psoriasis
People can apply aloe vera gel directly to the affected areas, but be sure to use pure aloe vera gel instead of products containing additives.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in immune function and skin integrity.
It is available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement, and it occurs naturally in:
- beef, pork, and poultry
- shellfish, such as oysters, lobster, and crab
- dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt
- nuts and seeds
Although zinc has many health benefits, anyone who takes the supplement should note that a very high zinc intake can have unwanted effects.
Speak with a healthcare provider before taking zinc supplements.
There is no cure for HS, but a dermatologist can develop a treatment plan that can manage and relieve the symptoms.
Treatments for HS include:
HS is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes painful, deep abscesses in areas where the skin rubs together.
There is no cure for HS, but doctors can treat flare-ups with oral antibiotics, biologics, and surgery. They may also recommend care strategies and medicated washes.
The following natural treatments may help ease mild symptoms of HS:
- warm compresses
- tea tree oil
- aloe vera
However, there is not enough specific evidence to support using natural treatments for HS. Anyone receiving treatment for HS should follow the plan recommended by a doctor.
SHOP FOR HIDRADENITIS SUPPURATIVA TREATMENT OPTIONS
Some of the items listen in this article are available to purchase in grocery stores and online: